Play To Your Strengths

Remember in school, when you signed up for subjects in which you were already knowledgeable? How did this make you feel? “Great! This is going to be easy.” What advice did you get from your counselors? Probably, they recommended you take classes in which you needed improvement. What a drag!

While learning new subjects is a great idea, striving to develop weaknesses can work against you. Conventional wisdom says we should work on improving our weaknesses. This is a terrible waste of time, talent and opportunity.

Imagine what would have happened if Chopin, Einstein, Chris Evert, or Pavarotti had followed that advice. All these people devoted their life to developing their natural strengths. As a result, they each were tops in their field.

Highly successful entrepreneurs, as well as top scientists, artists, athletes and entertainers throughout history have achieved greatness by focusing on areas of strength.

Everyone has a natural aptitude in something. We all have a special ‘gift’. You may be especially good at working with numbers, drawing pictures, teaching children, growing plants or caring for those less fortunate than you. Your special talent may involve music, athletic ability, empathy, writing, or working with your hands.

Chances are, you don’t even recognize your own aptitude. You might think that all of us can see and appreciate the subtleties of color the same as you. You may not get that some of us are not as graceful as you. You might believe that all people are able to effortlessly grow a beautiful garden.

The truth is that we are all very different. You are able to do some things better than I can. And, I can do some things better than you. You must play to your strengths.

How do you discover your natural talents? First, write down a list of those things that you do that seem easy for you. These are the things that you can do that seem almost effortless. Often, the tasks that are easy for us are those where we have a special aptitude.

Next, make a list of those things you do where time just seems to fly by. When you are doing these activities, you may look up and realize that several hours have passed without you even realizing it. This is a good clue to activities where you have natural talent.

Finally, write all the activities that make you happy. These are things that make you smile. These are the tasks you would do just for yourself, with no promise of gain, just because they’re fun, interesting and fulfilling.

Look through the three lists to find the common activities. These are likely to be the areas of your natural aptitude and talent. These are the areas of greatest potential for you. Imagine if you could spend most of your time developing and playing at something that makes you happy, where time flies and where it’s easy for you. Wow!

Don’t get caught up in the old advice to work on your weaknesses. Hire someone who is good where you are weak. Delegate tasks that you don’t enjoy to others who do enjoy those things. Automate the repetitious tasks. Contract out the chores that you are not great at doing.

No matter how hard you try, it is unlikely you will ever be more than average in areas where you don’t have an aptitude. Always working on your weaknesses undermines your self esteem since you will focus mostly on your deficiencies.

On the other hand, working to develop your natural talents is self rewarding and motivating, allowing you to continually realize higher and higher levels of ability, achievement and success. Invest your time and energy in being great at something. Really great. You will be happier. And the recipients of your work, your customers will reward you for your excellence. What a combination; doing what you love and people pay you for it!

Focus on your strengths. Experience the immense satisfaction that comes with being superb at something.

About the author:
Diane Allen is a leadership development consultant and founder of the Strategic Leadership Academy (www.strategicleadershipacademy.com). She has spent over twelve years helping senior leaders and middle managers create success by building their personal and organizational leadership skills. To learn how to identify your own Attitude, please request our Attitude Self Awareness Chart by emailing: info@strategicleadershipacademy.com and put “Self Awareness Chart” in the subject line.

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